By John Toth
Cruising during close-to-peak hurricane season does have its disadvantages - like hurricanes.
But it also has a lot of advantages. For example, schools are open by then, and the number of kids cruising with their parents are considerably fewer than at peak cruising season when schools are closed, so it’s less crowded.
Fares are usually cheaper during off-season also.
Our ship, the Carnival Vista, sailing out of Galveston, had a capacity of 3,900 passengers, but it left the port on our voyage with only 3,500. That’s still a lot of passengers, but it is also a big ship, and there are many areas that are not crowded.
I don’t mind kids being around. The ships have good programs for them for free all day long and into the night. Just drop off Junior at Camp Ocean, and away you go.
There were school-aged kids on the ship, but for the most part, they were well-behaved. But if I had to choose between a ship with a lot of school-aged children and a cruise when those kids are in school, you know which I would choose.
I love children, but if I wanted to cruise with them, I’d book a Disney cruise. If I wanted no kids at all, I’d book a trip on Virgin Voyages. They only allow passengers 18 years and older.
One good time to book cruises is off-season - at the end of August - when prices drop some.
That’s what we did, and that’s how we met young Idalia. She started forming as we left Port Galveston. We were heading south, and Idalia was going north. (To simplify it a little, there was no escaping it. We were going to cross paths.)
I turned to the Internet machine, which has gotten a lot smarter with artificial intelligence, and I asked for some reassurance that if the ship were to get in the middle of this forming hurricane, it could handle it.
“Cruise ships are designed to withstand rough seas and storms. They are built to withstand waves up to 15 meters (nearly 50 feet), which is enough to withstand the worst parts of category 5 hurricanes. Cruise ships also have advanced weather forecasting equipment and experienced captains. They can be rerouted to avoid danger,” came back the AI answer. That made me feel better.
That’s what I needed to know. We forged ahead to have some fun inside, while the ship played cat and mouse with this storm. To forget about it, we went to eat and to a stand-up comedy show. I looked around the restaurant and theater and didn’t notice anyone talking or acting like they were concerned. Those with the drink package were definitely not concerned.
I asked our room steward if he had been told anything about a storm approaching. He had no idea what I was talking about. He was very good at making towel animals, though. We had a different one waiting for us each day in the cabin.
I followed Idalia’s formation on “Mike’s Weather Page,” which I have been using for many years to see where these tropical systems are headed. I showed him the map of the storm.
He didn’t appear worried. I wasn’t either by then, since a big ship like this can withstand a “cat” 5 storm, according to AI.
I went back to AI, and it gave me this: “Today's modern cruise ships are built to withstand storms, avoid them and even outrun them.”
The Vista captain must know what’s going on, I figured.
We went back to our balcony room on the tenth deck, and I turned on the ship’s location channel. It was a lot more interesting most of the time than the rest of the TV channels. But we didn’t go cruising to watch TV.
I called up “Mike’s Weather Page” again and compared the two maps. We were right on the edge of the storm, although it was probably still just a tropical wave, maybe a depression.
I unlocked the balcony door and tried to open it. I got it cracked open about 3 inches. There was a loud whistling sound. The wind would not let me open it any further. I guess I could have if I put my shoulder into it, but I wasn’t going to do that.
I let go, and the door closed. The room fell silent. The ship wasn’t rocking all that much - even less than some other times. There was no wind noise. These things are built solid.
I don’t think the storm even slowed us down. We arrived at our port an hour early the following morning. Idalia went on to become a Category 3 hurricane and devastated parts of Florida.
Our first adventure with stormy weather during a cruise had just happened.
It was anticlimactic, but that’s O.K. I like it that way when it comes to storms and cruises, especially during hurricane season.